Wednesday, December 24, 2008

James White - Christmas Thoughts From Matthew 1:21



Enjoy these thoughts from James White on the meaning of Christmas. In my opinion, Dr. White is one of the best apologists, exegetes, and theologians of our generation. I hope you are blessed by his teaching and are helped to remember what Christmas is really all about and how our culture is increasingly hostile to the true meaning of Jesus' birth.

NKJ Matthew 1:18-21 "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.'"

Friday, December 19, 2008

Al Mohler on "The High Cost of Being (and Staying) Cool"

Earlier this morning Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, published a an article on his blog entitled The High Cost of Being (and Staying) Cool -- Rick Warren in a Whirlwind. In this insightful article, Dr. Mohler discusses Barack Obama's recent selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the upcoming presidential inauguration on January 20. He also addresses the backlash among members of the gay rights community, who have stridently opposed Obama's decision.

Here are some of Dr. Mohler's conclusions:
I am not throwing Rick Warren to the wolves over this. He now finds himself in a whirlwind, and he will not be the last. Pastor after pastor and church after church will face a similar challenge in short order. No matter how cool you think you are or think that others think you are, the hour is coming when the issue of homosexuality -- taken alone -- will be the defining issue in coolness. If you accept the full normalization of homosexuality, you will be cool. If you do not, you are profoundly uncool, no matter how much good work you do nor how much love and compassion you seek to express.

Liberal Protestantism came to this conclusion long ago, and those churches desperately want to be considered cool by the elites. Having abandoned biblical authority, there is nothing to prevent them moving fast into coolness. The only barriers are outposts of conservative opposition, but they will not last long.

Many in the "emerging" and "Emergent church" movements also state their intention to transcend the divisive issues like abortion and homosexuality. Some
of these represent the quintessence of cool in cultural identification. But for how long? Eventually, the issue of homosexuality will require a decision. At that point, those churches will find themselves facing a forced decision. Choose ye this day: Will it be the Bible or coolness?

Rick Warren has just found himself in the midst of a whirlwind. We must pray that God will give him wisdom as he decides what to do -- and what to say -- as he stands in this whirlwind. But every evangelical Christian should watch this carefully, for the controversy over Rick Warren will not stop with the pastor from Saddleback. This whirlwind is coming for you and for your church. At some point, the cost of being "cool" will be the abandonment of biblical Christianity. We had better decide well in advance that this is a cost far too high to pay.
Dr. Mohler also writes about whether or not he himself would ever have accepted such an invitation from Barack Obama in the first place:
Would I deliver the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States? Well, I have not been asked, but I can imagine that it would be difficult to turn down this invitation. After all, the inaugural ceremony is a national event, not a personal ceremony. Yet, in the end, the context of this inaugural ceremony would not allow me to accept. President-elect Obama has pledged to sign legislation including the Freedom of Choice Act, which would affect a pro-abortion revolution in this nation. He has also pledged to sign executive orders within hours of taking office that will lead directly to a vast increase in the destruction of human life. In particular, he has promised to reverse the Bush administration's policy limiting
federal funding of human embryonic stem-cell research. Sources inside the transition office have advised activists to expect a flurry of executive orders in the new administration's first hours and days.

Knowing the intentions of this President-elect, I could not in good conscience offer a formal prayer at his inauguration. Even in the short term, I could not live in good conscience with what will come within hours. I could not accept a public role in the event of his inauguration nor offer there a public prayer, but I will certainly be praying for this new President and for the nation under his leadership.
I agree with Dr. Mohler's position and am encouraged by his typical desire to follow Scripture as his guide and to refuse to give even the appearance of approving of that which is evil. Let us all take note of his example. And let us all join him in praying for President-elect Obama and for the United States of America.

Let us also all pray for Rick Warren, that the Holy Spirit will lead him to repentance where it may be necessary, to a deeper awareness of the adverse effects of his actions on others, and to greater wisdom in following the Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Free Access to Complete Online Critical Edition of Jonathan Edwards

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University offers free access to a complete online critical edition of Edwards' works.

You can browse a through a list of his works here.

Or you can search his works here.

For any of the blog's readers who may not be familiar with Jonathan Edwards, a good beginning would be to check out John Piper's message entitled The Pastor as Theologian: Life and Ministry of Jonathan Edwards. You can both read and listen to the message.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tabular Comparison of Creeds Important to Reformed Baptists

Many - if not most - of this blog's readers may already be aware of True Confessions: Baptist Documents in the Reformed Family, by James Renihan. If not, I recommend it to you now. Here is a brief description from the Reformed Baptist Academic Press website:


From the Preface:

While several harmonies of Reformed Confessions have been published over the years, and also various compilations of Baptist Confessions, I am unaware of any attempts to do what has been done here--to place the most important 17th century Baptist Confessions and Catechisms side by side with their Reformed source documents.

From RBAP, LLC:

Dr. Renihan has rendered an invaluable service to Christ's Church through his labors. Both the contents of this work and the beautiful sturdy soft-cover, spiral bound design for teaching utility make this book an ideal resource for pastors & professors alike. This work is a "must have" for every serious study of 17th century Baptist symbolics.It was with a deep sense of "finally" that I looked at this new work by Dr. Renihan. We have long needed this detailed and tabular comparison of the foundational documents of our Calvinistic Baptist heritage and their sources. This work reminds lovers of that heritage that those who drew up these documents saw themselves as part of a Calvinist International, "a broader Reformed community" as Renihan puts it... Michael Haykin, Th.D.
Having had an opportunity to make some use of this work, I can heartily agree that it is well worth the price.

However, there is a similar free resource available for basic tabular comparison of some the the most important creeds for Reformed Baptists. These have been made available for some time by James Anderson.

The first is A Tabular Comparison of the 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith,the 1658 Savoy Declaration of Faith, the 1677/1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith and the 1742 Philadelphia Confession of Faith.

The second is A Tabular Comparison of the 1646 WCF and the 1689 LBCF.

Of course, these two documents won't replace Renihan's work, and I recommend it if one can afford it. But they do provide a helpful resource.

May God continue to bless the growing Reformed Baptist movement. And may we truly appreciate our godly heritage.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Fred Thompson's Explanation of the Economic Bailout



I usually don't post about political or economic issues, but I just couldn't help myself when I saw this tongue in cheek video by conservative politician Fred Thompson.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

BibleWorks 8 Now Available

As a longtime user and fan of this terrific Bible study program, I was very glad to see that BibleWorks 8 is now available for order.

For any readers who may not be familiar with the premier program for in-depth Biblical exegesis, you can find out about the basic program here. You can see a list of the full contents of the program here. Or you can see what is new in Version 8 here.

I am particularly excited about the new features in this version. For example, BibleWorks "now includes three standard original language grammars: Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Wallace), Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Waltke & O’Connor), and A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Joüon & Muraoka). These electronic texts include the full text and graphics of the print editions and are closely linked to the Biblical texts in the program. Previously available only separately, these texts now come at no extra cost in BibleWorks 8!"

These three works would cost anywhere from $150 to $200 minimum if purchased new in print, and they wouldn't be nearly as useful as they are when incorporated into BibleWorks.

You may also want to check out the recent series of articles called Things to Love in BibleWorks 8 over at The BibleWorks Blog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spurgeon on Psalm 136

"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever."
Psalm 136:1

Last Sunday -- in preparation for this week's celebration of Thanksgiving -- I was privileged to teach on Psalm 136, one of the Psalms of Thanksgiving in Scripture. But as much as I enjoyed the task and believe that God used my teaching for our good and for His glory, I certainly could not do better than our departed brother, Charles Spurgeon. His three volume commentary on the Psalms, The Treasury of David, is a work every pastor should own, and today I would like to share his thoughts on Psalm 136:1 with the blog's readers:
"O give thanks unto the Lord." The exhortation is intensely earnest: the Psalmist pleads with the Lord's people with an "O," three times repeated. Thanks are the least that we can offer, and these we ought freely to give. The inspired writer calls us to praise Jehovah for all his goodness to us, and all the greatness of his power in blessing his chosen. We thank our parents, let us praise our heavenly Father; we are grateful to our benefactors, let us give thanks unto the Giver of all good. "For he is good." Essentially he is goodness itself, practically all that he does is good, relatively he is good to his creatures. Let us thank him that we have seen, proved, and tasted that he is good. He is good beyond all others; indeed, he alone is good in the highest sense; he is the source of good, the good of all good, the sustainer of good, the perfecter of good, and the rewarder of good. For this he deserves the constant gratitude of his people. "For his mercy endureth for ever." We shall have this repeated in every verse of this song, but not once too often. It is the sweetest stanza that a man can sing. What joy that there is mercy, mercy with Jehovah, enduring mercy, mercy enduring for ever. We are ever needing it, trying it, praying for it, receiving it: therefore let us for ever sing of it.

"When all else is changing within and around,
In God and his mercy no change can be found."
If you would like to read more of The Treasury of David, you can get it for free for e-Sword here. Or you can read it here. May God bless you all!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

In What Sense is Christ's Atonement "Limited"?

Most of the blog's readers will immediately recognize Bethlehem Baptist Church (in Minneapolis, Minnesota) as the church where John Piper serves as a pastor. This church offers many good online resources, including a solid, basic presentation of Calvinism entitled What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism. I recommend checking it out and offer the section on the doctrine of Limited Atonement here for your perusal. It is so good that I have included it here in its entirety, but I want you to notice especially the assertion, "We do not deny that all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense." This is an admission that Calvinists have been able to make historically, I believe, but that many current Calvinists appear to resist. See if you agree after reading the following discussion:
The atonement is the work of God in Christ on the cross whereby he canceled the debt of our sin, appeased his holy wrath against us, and won for us all the benefits of salvation. The death of Christ was necessary because God would not show a just regard for his glory if he swept sins under the rug with no recompense.
Romans 3:25-26 says that God "put Christ forward as a propitiation by his blood...This was to demonstrate God's righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
In other words the death of Christ was necessary to vindicate the righteousness of God in justifying the ungodly by faith. It would be unrighteous to forgive sinners as though their sin were insignificant, when in fact it is an infinite insult against the value of God's glory. Therefore Jesus bears the curse, which was due to our sin, so that we can be justified and the righteousness of God can be vindicated. The term "limited atonement" addresses the question, "For whom did Christ die?" But behind the question of the extent of the atonement lies the equally important question about the nature of the atonement. What did Christ actually achieve on the cross for those for whom he died? If you say that he died for every human being in the same way, then you have to define the nature of the atonement very differently than you would if you believed that Christ only died for those who actually believe. In the first case you would believe that the death of Christ did not actually save anybody; it only made all men savable. It did not actually remove God's punitive wrath from anyone, but instead created a place where people could come and find mercy—IF they could accomplish their own new birth and bring themselves to faith without the irresistible grace of God.
For if Christ died for all men in the same way then he did not purchase regenerating grace for those who are saved. They must regenerate themselves and bring themselves to faith. Then and only then do they become partakers of the benefits of the cross.
In other words if you believe that Christ died for all men in the same way, then the benefits of the cross cannot include the mercy by which we are brought to faith, because then all men would be brought to faith, but they aren't. But if the mercy by which we are brought to faith (irresistible grace) is not part of what Christ purchased on the cross, then we are left to save ourselves from the bondage of sin, the hardness of heart, the blindness of corruption, and the wrath of God.
Therefore it becomes evident that it is not the Calvinist who limits the atonement. It is the Arminian, because he denies that the atoning death of Christ accomplishes what we most desperately need—namely, salvation from the condition of deadness and hardness and blindness under the wrath of God. The Arminian limits the nature and value and effectiveness of the atonement so that he can say that it was accomplished even for those who die in unbelief and are condemned. In order to say that Christ died for all men in the same way, the Arminian must limit the atonement to a powerless opportunity for men to save themselves from their terrible plight of depravity.
On the other hand we do not limit the power and effectiveness of the atonement. We simply say that in the cross God had in view the actual redemption of his children. And we affirm that when Christ died for these, he did not just create the opportunity for them to save themselves, but really purchased for them all that was necessary to get them saved, including the grace of regeneration and the gift of faith.
We do not deny that all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that Christ is "the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." What we deny is that all men are intended as the beneficiaries of the death of Christ in the same way. All of God's mercy toward unbelievers—from the rising sun (Matthew 5:45) to the worldwide preaching of the gospel (John 3:16)—is made possible because of the cross.
This is the implication of Romans 3:25 where the cross is presented as the basis of God's righteousness in passing over sins. Every breath that an unbeliever takes is an act of God's mercy withholding judgment (Romans 2:4). Every time the gospel is preached to unbelievers it is the mercy of God that gives this opportunity for salvation.
Whence does this mercy flow to sinners? How is God just to withhold judgment from sinners who deserve to be immediately cast into hell? The answer is that Christ's death so clearly demonstrates God's just abhorrence of sin that he is free to treat the world with mercy without compromising his righteousness. In this sense Christ is the savior of all men.
But he is especially the Savior of those who believe. He did not die for all men in the same sense. The intention of the death of Christ for the children of God was that it purchase far more than the rising sun and the opportunity to be saved. The death of Christ actually saves from ALL evil those for whom Christ died "especially."
There are many Scriptures which say that the death of Christ was designed for the salvation of God's people, not for every individual. For example:
John 10:15, "I lay down my life for the sheep." The sheep of Christ are those whom the Father draws to the Son. "You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep." Notice: being a sheep enables you to become a believer, not vice versa. So the sheep for whom Christ dies are the ones chosen by the Father to give to the Son.
In John 17:6,9,19 Jesus prays, "I have manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to me...I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom Thou hast given me, for they are thine...And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth." The consecration in view here is the death of Jesus which he is about to undergo. His death and his intercession us [sic] uniquely for his disciples, not for the world in general.

John 11:51-52, "[Caiaphas] being high priest that year prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad." There are children of God scattered throughout the world. These are the sheep. These are the ones the Father will draw to the Son. Jesus died to gather these people into one. The point is the same as John 10:15-16, "I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice." Christ died for his sheep, that is, for the children of God.

Revelation 5:9, "Worthy art Thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for Thou wast slain and by Thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." In accordance with John 10:16 John does not say that the death of Christ ransomed all men but that it ransomed men from all the tribes of the world.
This is the way we understand texts like 1 John 2:2 which says, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." This does not mean that Christ died with the intention to appease the wrath of God for every person in the world, but that the "sheep," "the children of God" scattered throughout the whole world, "from every tongue and tribe and people and nation" are intended by the propitiation of Christ. In fact the grammatical parallel between John 11:51-52 and 1 John 2:2 is so close it is difficult to escape the conviction that the same thing is intended by John in both verses.
John 11:51-52, "He prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad."

1 John 2:2, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."
The "whole world" refers to the children of God scattered throughout the whole world.
If "the whole world" referred to every individual in the world, we would be forced to say that John is teaching that all people will be saved, which he does not believe (Revelation 14:9-11). The reason we would be forced to say this is that the term propitiation refers to a real removal of wrath from sinners. When God's wrath against a sinner is propitiated, it is removed from that sinner. And the result is that all God's power now flows in the service of his mercy, with the result that nothing can stop him from saving that sinner.
Propitiated sins cannot be punished. Otherwise propitiation loses its meaning. Therefore if Christ is the propitiation for all the sins of every individual in the world, they cannot be punished, and must be saved. But John does not believe in such universalism (John 5:29). Therefore it is very unlikely that 1 John 2:2 teaches that Jesus is the propitiation of every person in the world.
Mark 10:45, in accord with Revelation 5:9,does not say that Jesus came to ransom all men. It says, "For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Similarly in Matthew 26:28 Jesus says, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
Hebrews 9:28, "So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not [to] deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (See also 13:20; Isaiah 53:11-12.)
One of the clearest passages on the intention of the death of Christ is Ephesians 5:25-27. Here Paul not only says that the intended beneficiary of the death of Christ is the Church, but also that the intended effect of the death of Christ is the sanctification and glorification of the church. This is the truth we want very much to preserve: that the cross was not intended to give all men the opportunity to save themselves, but was intended to actually save the church.
Paul says, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor."
Similarly in Titus 2:14 Paul describes the purpose of Christ's death like this: "He gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds." If Paul were an Arminian would he not have said, "He gave himself to redeem all men from iniquity and purify all men for himself"? But Paul says that the design of the atonement is to purify for Christ a people out from the world. This is just what John said in John 10:15; 11:51f; and Revelation 5:9.
One of the most crucial texts on this issue is Romans 8:32. It is one of the most precious promises for God's people in all the Bible. Paul says, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?"
The crucial thing to see here is how Paul bases the certainty of our inheritance on the death of Christ. He says, "God will most certainly give you all things because he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for you." What becomes of this precious argument if Christ is given for those who do not in fact receive all things but instead are lost? The argument vanishes.
If God gave his own Son for unbelievers who in the end are lost, then he cannot say that the giving of the Son guarantees "all things" for the those for whom he died. But
this is what he does say! If God gave his Son for you, then he most certainly will give you all things. The structure of Paul's thought here is simply destroyed by introducing the idea that Christ died for all men in the same way.
We can conclude this section with the following summary argument. Which of these statements is true?
1. Christ died for some of the sins of all men.
2. Christ died for all the sins of some men.
3. Christ died for all the sins of all men.
No one says that the first is true, for then all would be lost because of the sins that Christ did not die for. The only way to be saved from sin is for Christ to cover it with his blood.
The third statement is what the Arminians would say. Christ died for all the sins of all men. But then why are not all saved? They answer, Because some do not believe. But is this unbelief not one of the sins for which Christ died? If they say yes, then why is it not covered by the blood of Jesus and all unbelievers saved? If they say no (unbelief is not a sin that Christ has died for) then they must say that men can be saved without having all their sins atoned for by Jesus, or they must join us in affirming statement number two: Christ died for all the sins of some men. That is, he died for the unbelief of the elect so that God's punitive wrath is appeased toward them and his grace is free to draw them irresistibly out of darkness into his
marvelous light.
I believe this excellent explanation of the doctrine of Limited Atonement is well within the boundaries of historical Calvinism, as I previously observed. It does not see the doctrine as denying that there is a sense in which Christ can be said to have died for all men, but it does say that the atonement secures the salvation of the elect only. That such a way of stating the doctrine has been viewed as acceptable Reformed theology for some time can also be seen in another work regarded as a classic by many in the Reformed community: The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, by Lorraine Boettner. Here is part of his discussion of Limited Atonement from chapter twelve of the book, which contains a section entitled "Certain Benefits Which Extend to Mankind in General":
In conclusion let it be said that Calvinists do not deny that mankind in general receive some important benefits from Christ's atonement. Calvinists admit that it arrests the penalty which would have been inflicted upon the whole race because of Adam's sin; that it forms a basis for the preaching of the Gospel and thus introduces many uplifting moral influences into the world and restrains many evil influences. Paul could say to the heathen people of Lystra that God "left not Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness," Acts 14:17. God makes His sun to shine on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Many temporal blessings are thus secured for all men, although these fall short of being sufficient to insure salvation.

Cunningham has stated the belief of Calvinists very clearly in the following paragraph: - "It is not denied by the advocates of particular redemption, or of a limited atonement, that mankind in general, even those who ultimately perish, do derive some advantages or benefits from Christ's death; and no position they hold requires them to deny this. They believe that important benefits have accrued to the whole human race from the death of Christ, and that in these benefits those who are finally impenitent and unbelieving partake. What they deny is, that Christ intended to procure, or did procure, for all men these blessings which are the proper and peculiar fruits of His death, in its specific character as an atonement,—that He procured or purchased redemption—that in, pardon and reconciliation—for all men. Many blessings flow to mankind at large from the death of Christ, collaterally and incidentally,, in consequence of the relation in which men, viewed collectively, stand to each other. All these benefits were of course foreseen by God, when He resolved to send His Son into the world; they were contemplated or designed by Him, as what men should receive and enjoy. They are to be regarded and received as bestowed by Him, and as thus unfolding His glory, indicating His character, and actually accomplishing His purposes; and they are to be viewed as coming to men through the channel of Christ's mediation,—of His suffering and death." [Citing William Cunningham's Historical Theology, Vol 2]

There is, then, a certain sense in which Christ died for all men, and we do not reply to the Arminian tenet with an unqualified negative. But what we do maintain is that the death of Christ had special reference to the elect in that it was effectual for their salvation, and that the effects which are produced in others are only incidental to this one great purpose.
Why is it that so many professing Calvinists today seem bent on denying any possible application of the atonement of Christ to mankind in general, when others -- such as William Cunningham, Lorraine Boettner, and John Piper -- have not found this to be either Biblical or necessary? I am not entirely certain as to the answer, but I suspect that it involves at least two factors:
1) Many current Calvinists know little of the history of Reformed theology, so they mistakenly think that such a view is anathema to Reformed thought.
2) Many current Calvinists have come to their views in the context of debate with the Arminian position and as a result have allowed themselves to be backed into a corner on this point. That is, they have become so geared up to deny any notion of a universal atonement over against their Arminian brethren that they cannot bring themselves to allow even a hint of a universal application of any kind.
Just a few of my own thoughts. What do you think?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology

I would like to recommend two resources to the blog's readers for help in seeking to understand Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology.

First, I would like to recommend reading Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ, edited by Ronald D. Miller, James M. Renihan, and Francisco Orozco and published by Reformed Baptist Academic Press. It focuses especially upon the writings of Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen.

The book may be purchased for a very good price at Solid Ground Christian Books. Here are the recommendations listed on the SGCB site:

"This volume brings together wonderful insights from two faithful church leaders of an earlier generation with helpful analyses from competent teachers of today. The results is a valuable resource for students, academics, and pastors." - Tom Ascol

"More times than I can count - and personally I find it so frustrating - I have heard Reformed theology defined in such a way that it excludes those who hold to believer's baptism. This valuable work will help set the record straight." - Michael Haykin

"Nehemiah Coxe's work on the covenant is an important piece of writing by a significant seventeenth century Particular Baptist theologian. Its republication is long overdue. This work is an important resource for twenty-first century Reformed Baptists." - Robert Oliver

"Paedobaptists have seldom, if ever, considered the possibility of a covenantal credobaptist position, and many Baptists are simply ignorant of the centrality of the covenant and its usefulness in defending their own beliefs. This book is an attempt to begin to rectify this deficiency." - Jim Renihan

"For various reasons, many reformed Baptists of our time have failed to realize that historic Covenant Theology was fully appreciated and theologically deployed in the very best of the Calvinistic Baptist tradition. Whereas many Baptists today who are reformed have opted for speaking of themselves as some form of dispensationalist (modified or progressive) or have felt drawn to so-called 'New Covenant Theology,' Baptists who embrace the great Reformed distinctives (like Spurgeon did) have seen themselves as covenant theologians. May their tribe increase!" - Ligon Duncan

Second, I would like to recommend Fred Malone's lecture given at the 2005 Southern Baptist Founders Conference. It is entitled The Hermeneutics of Baptist Covenant Theology, and it deals with exactly what it says in a very capable and informative manner. I should point out, however, that the actual lecture doesn't begin until just over four minutes into the recording.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Berean Bible Study Freeware

The regular readers of this blog know that I am always on the lookout for good Bible study software and internet resources, especially those that are freely available.

Well, I have run across another free Bible study software program that is good for looking up passages quickly or doing basic searches and topical studies. It won't replace e-Sword as the best free Bible study program, but it will be quite suitable for those who simply want these basic features as described at the Berean Bible study software site:

BerBible is simplified Bible study freeware that includes the complete ESV (English
Standard Version ©2001 from Good News and Crossway Publishers), NASB (New
American Standard Bible ©1995 from The Lockman Foundation), and the NKJV (New King James Version ©1982 from Thomas Nelson, Inc.) Bibles at no cost. The learning curve is all but trivial because only the most used functions are implemented:

* lookup a specific verse (such as John 3:16)
* find verses with one or more word (super-concordance)
Word/phrase searching is extremely fast, intuitive, and very flexible to find what you are looking for. On most computers, BerBible is running immediately after you launch it, and searching is faster than you can type.

The small, self-contained 1.9 meg ESV Starter Kit, NASB Starter Kit, or NKJV Starter Kit downloads for Windows desktop PC's include the program, the specific Bible itself, and extensive help and documentation. See the downloads page for other Bible translations, such as the KJV and a 'bundle' with the ESV, NASB, and NKJV.

* mini-tutorial with 7 steps that is 90% of what you need to know to use
basic features.
* Beginners' tutorial oriented to less experienced users
* 70 step tutorial of New Features for experienced users
* Context sensitive help, F1-Help, FAQ's, hover tool-tips, e-support, and more

Pocket-PC ver 2.31 released Dec 01, 2007 for ESV, KJV, and others.

Palm pda ver 1.10 released Nov 30, 2007 for ESV, KJV, and others.

BerBible also works great on obsolete computers that are too slow for software oriented to Bible scholars. It doesn't assume a high resolution monitor and latest hardware. Its small download size is optimized for people with a slow, unreliable, and/or expensive Internet connection.

Give it a try, and let us all know what you think.

Friday, October 17, 2008

James White's Response to Ergun Caner


No doubt many of you are familiar with the story of the attempt of James White and Tom Ascol to debate Ergun and Emir Caner on Calvinism back in 2006. You will notice that the video, which was originally an episode of the Dividing Line's "Radio Free Geneva" broadcast from April 2006, references the debate as upcoming, although it never actually took place. If you want to know more about why the debate never occurred, you can read Tom Ascol's explanation on the Founders Ministries blog from that time.

The reason I am posting this video now, however, is that, after watching it today, I was struck by how many of Ergun Caner's attacks on Calvinism represent the same misconceptions that I often hear from its detractors. I was also impressed with how clearly James White dealt with these objections.

The video is just over an hour and a half long, but I encourage the blog's readers to listen to all of it. If you are already a Calvinist, it will help you to know how best to respond to common objections to the Doctrines of Grace. And if you are not a Calvinist, I hope it will help you understand more clearly why we believe as we do and will discourage the same kind of straw man attacks so consistently employed by Caner.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Renihan/Gonzales Exchange On Using the Language of "Passion" With Reference to God and Believers

Earlier today, James M. Renihan, the Dean of The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies, published an article entitled Are you passionate? on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog. Here is the post in its entirety:

It seems that evangelical preachers and writers have become passionate about being passionate. This might be one of the most common buzzwords of the day. We are urged to have a passion for God, to be passionate about winning souls, to be passionate in worship etc. ad nauseum. If you aren’t passionate, you probably are not really living as a Christian should-or so it would seem to be implied. But it seems to me that there is a problem with the use of this language, and it ought to cause us to reconsider our terms.

Today, ‘passion’ is generally thought to be good. It is used to describe powerful emotions, or deep and profound commitment. These things may be very good in themselves. The problem is, however, that we Christians inherit an older sense of the term that is utterly contradictory to anything good.

If you look at most conservative translations of the Bible-for example the New American Standard Version or the New King James Version-you will find that when ‘passion(s)’ is used in the New Testament, it always has a sinful connotation: Romans 1:26 “God gave them up to vile passions;” 1 Cor. 7:9 “It is better to marry than to burn with passion;” Gal. 5:24 “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires;” we are even told in Col. 3:5 “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and
covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Isn’t it confusing to preach to people, telling them to be passionate about something good, when all that they read about passion(s) in the Bible is evil? What do they think when they read the scriptures?

And making matters even more confusing for serious minded believers, our Confession tells us that God is “without body, parts, or passions.” This is an important theological point, often misunderstood. While we speak somewhat simplistically of emotions, our tradition spoke more specifically, not about emotions, but about affections and passions. Affections are righteous attributes which have their source within God; passions are unrighteous attributes which have their source outside of God. Our Triune Lord has true affections, but he has no passions. Preachers who understand and subscribe to our Confession should comprehend this point and think through its implications for their communication with their people. Isn’t it confusing to urge people to strive to be passionate about imitating God when we rightly confess that God has no passions?

Language changes over time, this is certain. And it may be that we are witnessing a change in the use of ‘passion’ and its derivatives. But it seems to me that Confessional Christians who are serious about the Scriptures ought to be careful in their use of language. We need to avoid confusion or confusing terms. It might be better for us to refrain from using this term in a positive sense, finding another to replace it. This would avoid the difficulty of telling our people to be passionate even when the Scriptures tell us to mortify our passion.
Are you passionate? Maybe you need to repent!

Then, later in the day, Bob Gonzales, Dean and Professor at Reformed Baptist Seminary, responded to Dr. Renihan's post in the following comments. Here is his post in its entirety:


Dear Jim,

Since you and I have recently interacted over this theme on the RBF group discussion list, I felt compelled to offer the readers a balancing perspective. Before I do, let me begin by affirming some areas where I agree with certain points of your post. First, I agree that many preachers today, myself included, use the term “passion” or “passionate” in a positive sense, usually to underscore the need to be fervent, devoted, and enthusiastic about Christ, the gospel, missions, etc. Second, I agree with you that “today, ‘passion’ is generally thought to be good.” A look at any modern dictionary reveals that the term “passion” does not usually carry the freight of negative connotations unless there are some accompanying negative modifiers. For example, the 2006Unabridged Random House Dictionary offers the following 12 definitions:

1. any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.
2. strong amorous feeling or desire; love; ardor.3. strong sexual desire; lust.
4. an instance or experience of strong love or sexual desire.
5. a person toward whom one feels strong love or sexual desire.
6. a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything: a passion for music.
7. the object of such a fondness or desire: Accuracy became a passion with him.8. an outburst of strong emotion or feeling: He suddenly broke into a passion of bitter words.
9. violent anger.
10. the state of being acted upon or affected by something external, esp. something alien to one’s nature or one’s customary behavior (contrasted with action).
11. (often initial capital letter) Theology.
a. the sufferings of Christ on the cross or His sufferings subsequent to the Last
Supper.
b. the narrative of Christ’s sufferings as recorded in the Gospels.
12. Archaic. the sufferings of a martyr.

Of these definitions, #3, #8, and #9 seem to carry negative connotations though I don’t believe all “sudden outbursts of strong emotion or feeling” are necessarily sinful. But when preachers or theologians today speak of having a “passion for God” or being “passionate about winning souls” or “worshiping God passionately,” they obviously are using the terminology in keeping with uses #1, 2, 6, and/or 7. And thanks to Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion” and Piper’s book The Passion of Christ, sense #11 has been somewhat revived and used for the sufferings of Christ. Third, I agree that the term “passions” when predicated of God in our Confession carries a negative connotation. If, as you claim, the Puritan framers of our Confession understood “passions” as “unrighteous attributes which have their source outside of God,” then, by definition, it is inappropriate for us to apply the term in this sense to God. Finally, I agree with you that language changes over time, which leads me to express some caveats regarding the general thrust of your post.

To begin with, the undeniable fact that the primary meaning of “passion” has evolves and is more commonly used within Christian circles in positive ways today invalidates the force of your argument. The English term “nice” used to mean "ignorant” or “stupid,” but I would never censure a 21st century person for
using that term to describe someone or something that was “pleasing, agreeable, or delightful.” Context, not etymology or historical usage, is the decisive factor. Take, for instance, the Greek term epithumia, which is normally translated “lust” and used negatively in Bible. The basic meaning of the term is “strong desire,” but it is predominantly used to describe sinful human desires. Nevertheless, this fact did not prevent Jesus or the apostles from using the term positively. Accordingly, Jesus says to his disciples, “I have earnestly desired [epithumia epethumesa; literally, ‘with lust I have lusted’] to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15 NAS). In Philippians 1:23, Paul writes, “I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire [epithumion] to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” At the risk of an ad nauseam repetition, I’ll add one more example: “but we, brethren, having been bereft of you for a short while–in person, not in spirit– were all the more eager with great desire [polle epithumia] to see your face” (1 Thessalonians 2:17, NAS). Obviously, these examples endorse the use of a word in a positive sense that might otherwise have a predominantly negative idea. Once again, context decides. Conversely, as many preachers often overlook, the common Greek terminology for “love” (agape/agapao) can be used to predicate sinful lust (2 Sam. 13:1, 4, 15). So context, context, context is Lord, not Shakespeare, the KJV, or the 1689.

Of course, you did not merely argue from historical usage. You appealed to the way the New American Standard Bible uses the term. First, you cite Romans 1:26 where Paul tells us that “God gave [sinful and idolatrous people] up to vile passions.” The Greek term translated “passions” is pathos, and, like epithumia, its basic meaning is “strong desire.” The reader should not miss the fact that Paul places the noun translated “passions” in genitive construct with another noun meaning “dishonorable or vile,” indicating the kind of strong desire he has in view: pathe atimias; “passions of dishonor.” So it is not passions per se but dishonorable passions that Paul censures. Next you cite 1 Corinthians 7:9, which reads in full, “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
Interestingly, the final phrase “with passion” does not occur in the KJV or the original NAS. It is added in the Updated NAS and placed in italics since there is no corresponding Greek terminology behind it. But here the dynamic equivalent is warranted since the context makes clear that Paul has in view inappropriate sexual passions (see NLT, NET). In Galatians 5:24, Paul informs believers, “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (NAS). Here, Paul uses the term pathos (“passions”) in parallel with epithumia (“lusts”) and, most importantly, describes them as expressions of “the flesh” or sarx, which in Pauline usage definitely carries negative ethical connotations. So once again, it is not the mere words pathos or epithumia that constrain a negative meaning but their attachment to sarx or “the flesh” that circumscribes their semantic domain. By the way, I can understand why you chose to cite the rendering of the NAS rather than that of the KJV for this verse. The latter reads, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” So apparently even the term “affection” could carry negative connotations in the 17th century. That doesn’t seem to sit well with the hard fast theological dichotomy you’ve drawn above! Finally, you quote Colossians 3:5: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Here it appears that you’re citing the New King James Version. Once again, this serves your purpose well since the original KJV uses the term “affection.” Of course, the 17th century Christian knew that Paul had a negative kind of affection in view. So the translators of the KJV wisely add the qualifier “inordinate” even though the Greek simply reads pathos. In doing so, these 17th century translators teach us an important lesson: an individual lexeme may have a semantic range that includes both positive or negative elements and context must decide the particular sense in view. And since the list of other terms accompanying pathos in this context are referring to sinful actions or impulses, then I agree with the decision of the KJV translators to add “inordinate” as well as the that of the NET translators, who translate pathos here as “shameful passion.”

I can appreciate your expertise in historical theology. It may be true that 17th century preachers and theologians preferred to use the term “affection” over “passion” when referring to God’s emotivity. That’s fine and well. But we no longer live in the 17th century. Therefore, I don’t think it right to bind the conscience of preachers or Christians to use theological terms whose meaning was not only capable of various senses in the 17th century but has changed over time. True, we should be aware of what the Puritans meant when they described God as “without passions.” But that doesn’t require us to parrot their terminology especially when it makes little sense to 21st century believers or non-believers. Indeed, your post has only served to strengthen my conviction that the language of our Confession needs to be updated to modern English in order to insure the clarity and intelligibility of the faith we confess (LBC 1.8). So I respectfully demur when you write,

“It might be better for us to refrain from using this term in a positive sense, finding another to replace it. This would avoid the difficulty of telling our people to be passionate even when the Scriptures tell us to mortify our passion.”
As you point out, “We need to avoid confusion or confusing terms.” But it better serves our people to teach them sound rather than artificial linguistic principles. Most people are smart enough to detect the difference in significance between the statements, “I love God” and “I love ice-cream.” Can’t we accord them enough intelligence to differentiate between being “passionate” for God and being “passionate” for illicit sex? Moreover, I fear that a post like yours will unfortunately bias the linguistically naïve to distrust otherwise sound preaching and teaching that speaks of things like, say, God’s Passion for His Own Glory. In my opinion, there has been too much oversimplified, backhanded Reformed Baptist polemics of this kind and it needs to stop. It is those who are not “passionate for God” who need to repent, not necessarily those who don’t form their language to the sometimes archaic usages of the 17th century.

In closing, Jim, I want to affirm my love and respect for you and your scholarship (which probably excels mine in many respects). Moreover, I would probably agree that the kind of “passion for God” or “passion in worship” some have in view today is simply shallow emotionalism. If that’s the beast you’re trying to shoot, then I’m with you. But I hate to see a good cause (i.e., preaching against spurious emotionalism, weak theology, or anti-confessionalism) injured by a poor argument. So I felt compelled to file a caveat.

Respectfully yours,
Bob Gonzales, Dean Reformed Baptist Seminary

I not only found this exhange very interesting, but I think it exhibits some of the real issues we have to grapple with as we seek to be confessional people in our current cultural milieu. This is why I reproduced the discussion here for this blog's readers.

Also, for what its worth, I definitely agree with Bob Gonzales. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Robert Gonzales on the Danger of Reformed Traditionalism

Robert Gonzales, Dean and Professor at Reformed Baptist Seminary, has written a couple of excellent articles on "The Danger of Reformed Traditionalism." In part one he identifies the basic problem of subtly allowing faithfulness to a particular Reformed confession to undermine our commitment to the authority of Scripture. This is a problem I have encountered myself, particularly when dealing with people who have recently come to embrace Reformed theology. They allow their understandable excitement for all things Reformed to overwhelm the Bible in their thinking, and they usually don't see that they are doing it. As a matter of fact, they very often don't really even have a sound understanding of Reformed theology anyway, so that they are actually sifting Scripture through a distortion of Reformed theology. So in reality they are faithful neither to Scripture nor to Reformed theology!

But Gonzales is dealing with those who do accurately understand Reformed theology, but who nevertheless may succumb to the danger he is warning against. Here are a couple of excerpts from the first article:
I’m not implying that Reformed churches today are unconcerned with the Bible. On
the contrary, one of the reasons churches like ours appreciate the Reformed tradition is because of its emphasis upon the Scripture. Along with the Reformers, we continue to affirm the principle of sola Scriptura. But here is where the danger lies: whereas the Reformers evaluated the faith and practice of the church in the light of Scripture; some Reformed leaders today seem to evaluate the faith and practice of the church in the light of the Reformed tradition, especially in light of their Reformed Confession of Faith.
Actually, the danger is really more subtle. Few Reformed pastors today would begin their sermon by asking the congregation to turn to page 250 of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion or to chapter 14 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Like the 16th century Reformers, modern Reformed pastors endeavor to take God’s people back to the Scripture. With a growing interest in and appreciation for the Reformed tradition, however, there can be a tendency to look at the Bible only through the lens of Reformed tradition. In other words, there is a real danger of imposing the Reformed tradition as a grid over the Bible and then insisting that every interpretation and application must agree with that tradition.

In principle no Reformed pastor or theologian would elevate his tradition to the same level as Scripture. But in practice I believe there can be a very subtle tendency in that direction.
By the end of the article, Gonzales begins to direct his attention specifically toward the Reformed Baptist tradition:
I am, nevertheless, sensitive to the danger of creating the impression that our Baptist Confession is incapable of improvement or that the Confession has said everything that needs to be said or that teachings of the Bible must conform in proportion and emphasis to the teaching of our Confession. In order to prevent our esteem for the London Baptist Confession in particular or our Reformed heritage in general from subtly weakening our commitment to sola Scriptura, I suggest that (1) we beware of the danger of traditionalism and (2) we be aware of the limitations of our own Baptist Confession. In this post, I’ve tried to alert us to the danger of Reformed traditionalism. In the next post, I hope to provide an example of a limitation (or weakness) in our own 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.
In part two, Gonzales not only cautions us more specifically about not allowing the Baptist Confession of 1689 to overwhelm our commitment to Sola Scriptura, he also suggests some changes to the confession in the process, even though he knows he may be sticking his neck out a bit.

So here’s where “the rubber meets the road.” It’s one thing to affirm one’s commitment to sola Scriptura and offer a general warning against an imbalanced commitment to one’s Confession of Faith. Most won’t object too strongly. It’s quite another thing, however, to venture suggestions as to how one’s Confession of Faith might have some deficiencies that need improvement. I don’t expect that all my readers will fully agree with all of my suggestions—at least immediately. But I do hope that you’ll give the matter careful prayer and reflection. In general, I think there are at least three ways in which the 1689 London Baptist Confession can be improved.
The three improvements Gonzales goes on to suggest are: 1) "updating the language of the confession," 2) "adding theological affirmations to the confession" (such as a clear statement on the Biblical roles of men and women), and 3) "making modest refinements to some doctrinal formulae" (such as "fine-tuning" some of the confession's statements about covenant theology).

I highly recommend reading both of these articles, and I am grateful to Robert Gonzales for having written them. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Publicly Praying Written Prayers: Good or Bad?

Today I read an interesting article by Isaac Gaff at the Worship Studies blog. The brief, but thought provoking, article is entitled, Why I Write Down Public Prayers. I recommend reading it and considering Isaac's point of view. I also recommend reading the comments to the post, which include some equally thought provoking interactions about both the pluses and the possible pitfalls of praying written prayers. Here is the main body of Isaac's post:

First, let me say this loudly and clearly: I like spontaneous prayer. All prayer that originates from us is, in a sense, spontaneous. That being said, there are several reasons why I like to think about prayers that I am going to pray in public worship services early and write them down.
I get a chance to reflect on the words I use and see whether or not they are true and make sense. Sometimes my spontaneity breeds unclear or untrue statements. Leading people in prayer is too important a job to be ambiguous or incorrect. After all, we’re not a group of individuals all praying different things in public prayer, we should be united around one prayer when we’re together.

I get a chance to see if this prayer is really voiced from the church’s
perspective or if it’s simply my own personal agenda. My own personal prayer needs are not unimportant; but when I’m gathered with the church, I want to make sure I have the church’s needs and responsibilities in the front of my mind. In the early church, the term “amen” really meant “so be it” or “we agree.” The prayers that have survived from the early church were written so that the entire church could say “yes, we agree with this and pray it as well” at the end of the
prayer.

I get a chance to make sure I’m purposeful in the prayer. Prayer often plays different roles in a service and I want to make sure this prayer does what it was intended to do. If I’m supposed to pray and thank God at communion, I want to make sure I’m really doing that.

I get a chance to soak in this prayer and make it more real than most things I could think up on the spot. Thinking about my prayers and writing them down before the service gives me a chance to let my heart, mind, will and imagination all work together to pray instead of quickly drawing from only one or two of them in spontaneous public praying.

Perhaps readers of this blog will want to go and weigh in here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Voddie Baucham Speaks Out on Women in Office

The following video contains an interview with Voddie Baucham on CNN. I am thankful for his faithfulness to Scripture and his willingness to take a stand.



I also encourage you to check out a couple of articles at Voddie's blog, where he addresses the matter of whether or not we Evangelicals should really be pleased with McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate.

In the first article, entitled Did McCain Make a Pro-Family VP Pick?, Voddie asserts the following:

Unfortunately, Christians appear to be headed toward a hairpin turn at breakneck
speed without the slightest clue as to the danger ahead. I don’t see this as a pro-family pick at all! Moreover, I believe the conservative fervor over this pick shows how politicized Christians have become at the expense of maintaining a prophetic voice. I believe that Mr. McCain has proven with his VP pick that he is pro-victory, not pro-family. In fact, I believe this was the anti-family pick....
First, if Mr. McCain was pro-family, he would want to see Mrs. Palin at home taking care of her five children, not headed to Washington to be consumed by the responsibilities of being second in command to the most powerful man in the world or serving as the Governor of Alaska for that matter). Let me also say that I would have the same reservations about a man with five children at home seeking the VP office. It’s not exactly a pro-family job....
Not only do I believe that a pro-family candidate would prefer to see Mrs. Palin at home taking care of her children, I believe a pro-family candidate would also avoid validating and advancing our culture’s desire to completely erase gender roles....

I encourage you to read the rest of the article to find out more about why Voddie thinks this way. You may just agree with him, as I do.

Then you may want to read the second article, which follows after not only the first article (and some apparent fallout from it?) but also after the above linked CNN appearance. In this second article, Voddie continues to make his typically Scriptural and intellectually rigorous arguments as he discusses the recent debate among Complementarians regarding the Palin candidacy.

As for me, I am in agreement with Voddie's position, and I want to thank him for taking the stand he has taken. Be encouraged, brother, you are not alone.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Recommendation: Michael Marlowe's Bible Research Website

Perhaps some of the blog's readers have already visited Michael Marlowe's Bible Research website from the link on this page, but if you haven't already checked it out, I highly recommend it.

Marlowe has a wealth of articles and information at the site, covering areas such as study of the Greek New testament, the Hebrew Old Testament, ancient Bible versions, the canon of Scripture, the history and methodology of English Bible versions, and Biblical interpretation and theology.

Marlowe also has a helpful web directory of other sites useful for Bible study. And he has written a number of excellent articles himself, including some very good reviews of various English Bible translations. He is Reformed theologically and holds to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Give the site a look and let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Back to the Source: A Cool, Fun, Free Movie on Keys to Bible Interpretation

I have stumbled upon an interesting new Bible study software program called ScriptureDirect, which is dedicated to study of the New Testament. The makers of this software have also made a fun little movie called Back to the Source, which can be viewed or downloaded for free. The movie takes you on a journey with Phil, a detective who is trying to figure out the meaning of a small piece of text that was left to a woman by a deceased relative. Although she doesn't understand what the text is or where it came from, she really wants to know what it means because it refers to a mysterious treasure. As it turns out, the text comes from the New Testament and, as Phil tries to find out the meaning, he discovers four keys to interpretation of the New Testament.

If you want to have some fun, check it out. There is no ScriptureDirect advertisement until the very end of the movie. I must say, though, that this looks like both a very useful and an ultra-cool piece of software. Rubén Gómez has given some background about it at his Bible Software Review website:

First of all I should mention a new and innovative program called ScriptureDirect. Bennie Wolvaardt, the developer, worked alongside Johannes Louw himself, who dedicated years of his life to this project after his retirement as professor. The interlinear translation has been prepared specifically for this program, and both the links between the Greek and English and the selection of the most likely meaning from Louw-Nida for each word of the NT have been done one by one. Similarly, it has been proofread word by word. The program does not include a library of books integrated by a search engine. Rather, it is very specific tool for diving into the original meaning of the Greek New Testament. This can be done starting from the English text (typing practice will yield five different semantic domains — i.e., 41.28, 42.3, 42.10, 68.20 and 90.45), the list of semantic domains itself [e.g., 10. Kinship Terms D. Kinship Relations Based Upon Marriage (10.53-10.61)] or the Greek text itself (φυλακή). It is very useful when you follow the designed workflow, but it does not offer yet the ability to make complex command line or dialog searches.

Are there any blog readers who can tell us more about this software? I would like to hear your comments.

Friday, August 15, 2008

John Piper on Fundamentalists

Back in June, John Piper wrote an interesting article at the Desiring God Blog. The article was called 20 Reasons I Don't Take Potshots at Fundamentalists. I was intrigued by the title and got to thinking that, in too many Evangelical circles, those "fundamentalists" have become the whipping boys from which most appear to want to distance themselves. In fact, in the wider culture and in the media, the term "fundamentalist" has even been taken so negatively as to be applied to the most extreme and even cruel elements of any religious group. How many of us, after all, have not heard the media refer to those wacky terrorists who want to blow people up as "Islamic Fundamentalists."

But there was a time when the term referred to those who were the most faithful to Scripture and who refused to allow their Christian faith to be watered down or to succumb to the twin threats of modernity and relativism -- and now post-modernity. Anyway, Piper's article reminded me that, although there have been some extreme types who have given the rest a bad name, there are still many good openly professing fundamentalists out there. Here are the twenty reasons that Piper has given for his unwillingness to "take postshots" at fundamentalists.

1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones I've met).
2. They believe in truth.
3. They believe that truth really matters.
4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.
5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world.
6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle.
7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like others).
8. They believe in hell and are loving enough to warn people about it.
9. They believe in heaven and sing about how good it will be to go there.
10. Their "social action" is helping the person next door (like Jesus), which doesn't usually get written up in the newspaper.
11. They tend to raise law-abiding, chaste children, in spite of the fact that Barna says evangelical kids in general don't have any better track record than non-Christians.
12. They resist trendiness.
13. They don’t think too much is gained by sounding hip.
14. They may not be hip, but they don’t go so far as to drive buggies or insist on typewriters.
15. They still sing hymns.
16. They are not breathless about being accepted in the scholarly guild.
17. They give some contemporary plausibility to New Testament claim that the church is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.”
18. They are good for the rest of evangelicals because of all this.
19. My dad was one.
20. Everybody to my left thinks I am one. And there are a lot of people to my left.

One of those things that kind of makes you go, "Hmmmm...."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Asking the Right Question About the Problem of Evil



I first saw this video at the Contemporary Calvinist blog, and I liked it so much that I wanted to share it with my readers as well. In it Voddie Baucham discusses the need to ask the right question about the problem of evil. He had me almost shouting, "Amen!"

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Two Ways to Live

Some of you may have noticed the addition of the Two Ways to Live Gospel presentation link on the blog's right panel. It has been included on the homepage of Immanuel Baptist Church (where I serve as an elder) for quite some time.

However, I thought it was worthy of a post on the blog as well. Here is a description of the approach of this Gospel presentation from the Matthias Media website:

At the most basic level, Two Ways to Live is simply a memorable summary of the Christian gospel. Or to put it more accurately, it is the Christian gospel including ome of its necessary presuppositions and background.

In the New Testament, the word 'gospel' usually refers to the proclamation of Jesus Christ crucified. It is the announcement that God's kingdom has arrived in the person of his Son, the powerful Messiah, who inaugurates his worldwide reign by dying and rising again so that repentance and forgiveness can be preached to all nations. This Jesus Christ now rules at God's right hand, from where he will come again to judge.

In other words, Jesus himself is the focus of the Christian message or 'gospel'. However, Jesus does not arrive in a vacuum. He arrives as the culmination of God's plans, and their outworking in history. He comes and dies and rises, "according to the Scriptures". He arrives in the context of all that God has already revealed about himself and humanity.
All this is part of the background or 'worldview' that the biblical authors took for granted, but which many modern (or postmodern) people do not share. If we are to know and tell the gospel in a world where these basic assumptions about God and human guilt are no longer shared, or even common, then we need to fill in some of the rest of the story. We need to provide some of the background.

This is what Two Ways to Live seeks to do. It fills in some of the wider story of the Bible, some of the biblical theology, so that the message about Jesus makes sense.

On the same page where this summary is found, there is also this endorsement of the presentation from D.A. Carson:

At the risk of oversimplification, most evangelistic tools in the Western world are subsets of systematic theology. By this I mean that they tend to ask atemporal questions, and give atemporal answers… There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this pattern, as long as the people to whom it is presented have already bought into the Judeo-Christian heritage…
But if you present these atemporal outlines of the gospel to those who know nothing about the Bible's plotline, and who have bought into one form or another of New Age theosophy, how will they hear you?…
In short, the good news of Jesus Christ is virtually incoherent unless it is securely set into a biblical worldview… In the last few years, several evangelistic tools have been created that are far more sensitive to the Bible's 'story line'.
The first of these to be prepared is still one of the most effective: Two Ways to Live presents Christ in six steps, the six steps offering, in contemporary English, something of the Bible's plot-line as the necessary framework in which to understand the gospel.
The Gagging of God, 1996, Zondervan Publishing House, pp 501-504, (used by permission).

Check out Two Ways to Live, and please let me know what you think. You can find a link to add to your blog or webpage here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ben Witherington's Response to Pagan Christianity

Some of you may already have discovered Ben Witherington's ongoing critique of Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices, by Frank Viola and George Barna. But for those who haven't, I want to recommend his review here. Of course, as a Reformed Baptist I would not share many of his views, but this series still looks to be very helpful and informative. Dr. Witherington is especially knowledgeable about Church history, but he offers some very solid responses to Viola & Barna on Biblical and theological matters as well. He has written a series of articles which interact with the book one chapter at a time, and he may yet add to them, so keep tuned in for the whole series, as it promises to be a good one. Here are the links to the first four of his posts:

PAGAN CHRISTIANITY: by George Barna and Frank Viola [Part One of the Review]

PAGAN CHRISTIANITY—REVIEW PART TWO

PAGAN CHRISTIANITY—REVIEW PART THREE

PAGAN CHRISTIANITY—REVIEW PART FOUR

And here is the link to a fifth post:

Pagan Christianity--- Postlude

Pay attention to the Comments following each article as well, where you will find interactions between Dr. Witherington and Jon Zens, one of the leading figures of the House-Church Movement. I think it worth pointing out, by the way, and think you will soon discover, that Zens has some good points of his own to make in rebuttal.

Dr. Witherington has also reproduced Howard Snyder's Review of 'Pagan Christianity' at his blog.

I hope you find these posts and comments helpful in sorting through the issues.

Keith

P.S. As far as a thorough response to the book goes, I still think the best guy for the job is James White.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More e-Sword Resources

Many of the blog's readers know of my recommendation of e-sword and of the many e-sword resources I have made available at Pastor Throop.com (Just click on the 'Select Category' drop-down menu).

But today I would like to let you all know about a couple of other nice websites for e-Sword.

First, there are a number of good modules available at Robert Hommel's Original Language Library page. These include a number of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek modules. And, for you really hard-core original language types, there are even modules in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Gothic, and Ehtiopic.

Second, for those who would like to have e-Sword available without downloading the whole program, there is e-Sword Live. Although it doesn't yet include most of the resources, it does promise to be an excellent online Bible study application and does currently offer basic word study capability.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 04, 2008

George Washington's Prayer for the United States

The following prayer for the Untied States of America was composed by George Washington on June 8, 1783, and sent to the governors of the states:

Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in thy holy protection, that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large.

And finally that Thou will most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

Grant our supplications, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Cited from The Sailor's Pocket Bible, © 2004 Holman Bible Publishers)

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Biblical Theology of Preaching

Recently I read James White's excellent book Pulpit Crimes: The Criminal Mishandling of God's Word. In the first chapter entitled "What is at Stake?" he insightfully observes:
A tempest in a teapot. No big deal. Just a matter of opinion. Something about which "good men" have disagreed (and hence, no one actually has a clue about it. All ways of saying. "It's no big deal, and, if anyone makes it a big deal, they are being difficult and disagreeable over nothing." That is how the vast majority of humanity would view passionate discussion of the manner, purpose, content, and goal of the Christian ministry of preaching, something for obscure theologians to argue about, but surely nothing of major import.

I have become convinced that nothing less than the very gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake when we speak of the proclamation of the gospel in preaching. I am painfully aware of how often strident, strong statements such as that are misused in a sensationalistic attempt to inflame the passions of one's audience, and I surely have no intention of engaging in my own form of pulpit crime, albeit in written form. Yet I believe I have a very firm basis for my statement. In fact, I may be selling the reality a bit short, since I am not using language as strong as that found in Scripture. I refer to a passage in Paul's epistle to the Corinthians. It is a passage that I confess I heard very little about in my seminary education. Despite taking a class or two in homiletics (the science or art of preaching), I have no recollection of ever having heard a discussion of this text. I confess I do not know why this passage is not emblazoned by command of authority of the eldership upon the memory of every elder candidate. I do not know why it is not engraved upon the doorway leading to every pulpit in the church. It should be, but it is not. Maybe it is because it is said almost in passing. All I know is this: if it were to be taken seriously by every man walking into the pulpit this coming Lord's day, the church would be turned on its head. The vast majority of what masquerades as preaching would have to come to an end. Listen carefully to the words of scripture: "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void" (1 Cor. 1:17).
White then goes on to discuss the key concepts found in 1 Corinthians 1-2, a passage that I agree has crucial implications for the proper preaching of the Gospel. And I am saddened with him that this passage is not taken more seriously by every Bible college and seminary in the training of pastors. But I would like to let everyone know that there has been a school where this passage has been taken very seriously indeed. That school was Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University), where Dr. Richard Belcher drilled this text into the minds of generations of prospective pastors in his homiletics courses.

In fact, even though Dr. Belcher is now retired from teaching at Columbia, his textbook – Preaching the Gospel: A Theological Perspective and a Personal Method – may still be purchased, and I highly recommend it as essential reading to all prospective pastors and preachers. It outlines a theology of preaching that is derived directly from the Scriptures and it encapsulates the training that made Dr. Belcher an unsung hero of the recently touted "Calvinist comeback" among Baptists in particular. Here is a description of the book from the website of it's publisher, Richbarry Press:
One of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century is that the art of biblical preaching has fallen on hard times.

So wrote Dr. Belcher to introduce the reader to one of the burdens of his heart some years ago. Using I Corinthians 1-4 and II Timothy 3:1-4:4 as the basis of study, Dr. Belcher sets forth the nature of the gospel we must preach and the nature of the methods we must employ in the task. He argues that we are not free to determine the nature of the gospel nor the method of its presentation. The presentation of the gospel must be consistent with the grace and mystery nature of the gospel itself. Failure to understand that is what has led to the modern-day demise of biblical preaching.
So there has been a man who for may years faithfully taught just the kind of theology of preaching that Dr. White laments being absent in so many schools today. But with the retirement of Dr. Belcher, I can only hope and pray that others will take up the mantle and carry on the task. I am thankful that Dr. James White has sought to be such a man, and as a student of Dr. Belcher I can assure the readers of this blog that I too will continue to labor to fill this void. I call upon all of you who are able to join us!
Soli Deo Gloria!